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County sees first flu death for the season
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Stanislaus County has recorded its first influenza-related death as the season hits the peak time for contagions.

The deceased, a 59 year-old male, had multiple underlying medical conditions, and died on Jan. 9, according to the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency. The man’s name and city of residence were not released.

“The death of this person grieves us all” said Stanislaus County Public Health Officer John Walker. “It is important that Stanislaus County residents receive the flu vaccine and take other preventative measure to help prevent further loss of life.”

While seasonal flu outbreaks can happen as early as October, flu activity is usually highest between December and February, and can last through the spring. 

California saw the first flu death of the season happen in December, when a person under 65 years of age died in Los Angeles County. By Dec. 30, the California Department of Public Health had received reports of three influenza deaths and 29 severe influenza cases resulting in admission to the intensive care unit in patients 64 years old and younger.

“The flu can be deadly and causes thousands of fatalities each year in the United States,” said CDPH Director and State Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. “Fortunately, people can get vaccinated to help keep them from getting sick and spreading the flu to others.”

At the end of December the CDPH announced that influenza activity has been increasing in the state and has reached “widespread” levels.  Areas with the most influenza activity include the Northern California, Central California and Bay Area regions.

Each year, flu causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands or sometimes tens of thousands of deaths in the United States. To reduce this threat, CDPH recommends the annual flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older, including pregnant women. 

Common symptoms of the flu include fever or feeling feverish, a cough and/or sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, chills, fatigue and body aches. Children may also have nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

Prior to each flu season the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducts research into which strains are the most likely to circulate among the population. For the 2016-17 flu season the vaccines are meant to protect against H1N1, H3N2, and the B/Victoria lineage. 

It takes about two weeks for the body’s immune system to fully respond to the flu vaccine. For this season the CDC is only recommending people get injectable flu vaccinations. The CDC examined the effectiveness of intranasal spray vaccines during the previous flu season and found it had a vaccine effectiveness rate of 46 percent, compared to a 65 percent rate for injectable vaccines last season.

Additionally the CDC found the intranasal spray, which was a quadrivalent strain meant to protect against four strains, was 0 percent effective in protecting against one of the strains circulating last flu season.

The flu specimens that have been tested match very closely to the current vaccine strains promising protection against the flu. Along with getting immunized, other precautionary measures can be taken:

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cover your cough and sneezes with a tissue.

• Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.